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Daily Telegraph: Slump in petrol reserves oils the wheels as bid fever hots up

Lower-than-expected oil supply figures and renewed speculation of a bid for BG pushed London's oil stocks and the FTSE 100 higher.
Strong trading in the oil majors underpinned a rise of 23.5 to 5959.2 in the blue chip index, offsetting falls for 40pc of the constituents.
BG headed the top flight throughout the day, closing up 30½ – or 4pc – at 734p. The rise followed renewed talk of a bid from Exxon Mobil at 950p a share and came despite the shares going ex-dividend. Exxon Mobil was not available for comment and BG declined to talk about the speculation.
Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Cairn Energy all responded positively, climbing 19p to £18.63, 5½ to 668½p and 25p to £21.60 respectively. The shares were also boosted by oil inventories data from the US Department of Energy showing that motor gasoline stocks had fallen by 5.4m barrels.
Angus Campbell, of spread betting firm Finspreads, said: “The rally was very much down to energy. The strengthening oil prices in the last few days has also driven the oil stocks higher.”
Elsewhere, investors welcomed better than expected, fourth-quarter figures from supermarket group J Sainsbury, showing a 5.3pc increase in like-for-like sales.
Steve Davies, of Numis, said: “In our view, Sainsbury's is very much in the sweet spot of food retailing at the moment.”
Sainsbury's shares rose 5¼ to 332¼p. Other top risers included Intercontinental Hotels Group, up 27½ to 928p, after UBS analysts upgraded the stock from “neutral” to “buy” and its target price from 930p to £11.30.
Vodafone regained some of Tuesday's losses, putting on 2½ to 122p after investors reconsidered the impact of European Commission proposals to cut roaming rates by up to 60pc.
Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein said Tuesday's 4pc drop in Vodafone shares showed the market “over reacted”. “We recognise the negatives of roaming regulation for operators. However, we also believe that roaming rate reductions should also lead to greater usage amongst non-business users.”
BAA rose 11½ to 838½p after a spokesman for Spain's Grupo Ferrovial SA said it was still considering all of its options with regards to acquiring the airport group.
On the downside, Scottish & Newcastle, one of a number of stocks to go ex-dividend, was the biggest blue chip faller, down 17 to 528p. Others included Amvescap, 5½ lower at 545p and BSkyB, down 2½ at 540½p.
Standard Chartered Bank said it was seeking merger and acquisition activities in Taiwan and other areas in the Asia Pacific but the news failed to help the shares, which fell a further 25 to £14.57 on fading hopes of a bid from Singapore's Temasek.
However, continued bid speculation lifted Royal Bank of Scotland 12p to £18.52 and Alliance & Leicester 11p to £11.90. Market rumours suggested Alliance & Leicester had already been approached about a bid. Spanish bank Banco Santander SA was considered as a potential suitor, along with France's Credit Agricole. Alliance & Leicester would not comment.
RBS was linked with a possible bit from Citigroup. But a source close to the situation said senior management at Citigroup had made it clear they were not in the mood for a transformational acquisition.
RBS made no comment. Citigroup was not available for comment.
Copper miner Kazakhmys shed much of its recent rise, dropping 8½ to 953½p. Analysts predicted yesterday that full-year pre-tax profits, buoyed by higher copper prices, would be 31pc better at $565m (£326m).
Troubled retailer Woolworths said like-for-like annual sales had fallen 4pc and warned of “tough trading conditions” in the year ahead. But its shares rose slightly to 35¼p.
The FTSE 250 rose 4.7 to 9820.8. Brit Insurance Holdings, the Lloyd's of London insurer, topped the mid-line risers list, adding 7p – or 8pc – to 98p after the High Court cleared plans to move £180m from the share premium account to distributable reserves.
Hikma Pharmaceuticals ticked up 18 to 408p after the Jordanian generic drug maker topped expectations with a 9pc rise in full-year profits to $64.4m pre-tax.
In other trading, Isoft, the software group, slumped 27¾ – or 16pc – to 148½p, after Accenture said it would take a $450m hit on a contract to update computer systems in the NHS, partly blaming delays in software delivery from Isoft.
Dairy Crest rose 6¾ to 481½p after it said strong sales of branded products such as Cathedral City cheese had helped it to offset oil-related cost rises.

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